What’s in a Label?

Labels – we love them! They define everything around us. They give context to things , stuff … and people!

I am fascinated by how people are defined by others but also by self through the label they wear – of course it’s not a visible label but it’s there non the less. You can often have many labels all at once,  your luggage covered like a well-travelled explorer of life.

The fascination comes from how simply these words can instantly create a change in how a person feels.

They can lift you up – head proud – this is me. They can dictate how you see your social circle, who you mix with , what objects you choose to covert in your life.  But what about when that changes and you get a label you never expected to have .. suddenly you see yourself in a different light – you are not the person you were and that changes everything around you as well..

Many of my clients have changed their lives and thus changed the label and it is almost always this piece which makes it so hard to move on.

Labels are totally linked to  our view of self-esteem.

For women more so than men we have a label for almost every event – it seems as though you blink and suddenly someone has come up and stuck a sticky label on you – that’s it – that’s you now – you are in that box!

I think about the labels I have had over the years .Although I have no issue with the label wife or mum, in fact I see these often as titles which I proudly bear, of course I cannot just be that. So we must define further – I was initially a ‘ young mum’ when I had my first daughter the age of 22. A label which seems to say – ‘perhaps not quite able to cope ? ‘

When I had my son 2 years ago I was a Geriatric mum, even though many women are now having children much later in life.You can imagine the looks and comments I gave to the staff around me at that time. But again a label which also said ‘ perhaps not quite able to cope ‘ but from a totally different view-point 😦

Then of course we must label further …

I have always been a working mum. It appears I could not be a full-time mum as I went to work and therefore I stopped being a mum a work and was only a mum on a part-time basis. On the flip side of  course mums who are full time in the home are not labelled as working because well – they just don’t ! ( yes I am saying this all tongue in cheek before people implode with rage)

I have been career girl , single parent , separated , divorced ,  second wife, mature student – all of which conjure up feelings in me of times in my life, but also honestly about whether I liked that label or not – and whether I liked it, was I guess, very much based on how society saw the wider group they associated with it.  Career girl was very high flying , always busy , juggling everything , single parent always felt a bit sad even though we were extremely happy and I really enjoyed that part of my life. separated felt unfinished and divorced was a label which some people almost whispered as if to say – on the shelf again. Second wife is a favourite. It doesn’t sound very permanent does it. As if you are just there for a bit until another one comes along and also brings up feelings sometimes of  not quite belonging in the family group.

Now I am a step mum – a label which brings images of dreadful relationships between child and adult ( when in fact we do alright – that is subject for another blog) and to be honest I am not even sure what the label means – because in actual fact I am not their mum. They have a mum – I am ,dare I say it ‘ Ali ‘. And there in is my point.

Throughout all of these labels I have been given and the roles I have undertaken – I have been Ali. Of course I have changed , grown and filtered during the years – that is life… But I look back and I see how I allowed the label to define me in many instances, when in fact I needed to define me by who I was. That is why when life changes and your label changes to something you don’t identify with it is so hard to pick up and move on. Add into the mix the fact we all love a diagnosis so you can now be anxious , stressed , depressed etc. and it’s no wonder people say to me – I am am not even sure who I am any more ? .

You need to remember that  you are still you .. you are all the things you were before as a being. Your routine may have changed , your physical tasks may be different .. but you are always there . When we take time to connect and be still we can just be. A wonderful coach talked to me recently about really owning who you are being. Owning who that person is that you are portraying.

Without going in the realms of darkness that is political society we are so keen to label people now adays so we can make a judgement that it seems a good place to say :

A label cannot ‘ make you feel’ anything unless you choose to let it do so.

A label should not define how we view ourselves or how we view others.

A label should be something you choose to have or not have ….

Sending much love out there from this business women / mum / step mum / second wife/ slightly frazzled psychotherapist!




Perfume – The Sense of It.

At this time of the year many women will be using new bottles of perfume received as a Christmas gift. Perfume comes with the heady promise of a slightly different you – if the adverts are to be believed we shall be transported into a glamorous adventure, whilst being transformed into a goddess who can bungee jump in taffeta and not lose our tiara – and everyone will be unable to resist us!

In a way the perfume ads are tapping into something – our sense of smell is such an important part of our emotional make up. Smell can trigger a whole range of emotional responses -from elation to disgust and of course the aroma practises are all about selecting the right smells to create the feeling – be it energised or calm. It’s no wonder that victims of crime ( especially those of a personal nature) will be able to remember a certain smell, when perhaps details of the attack itself are hazy.

For me though the perfume ads are missing a trick – they are focusing on the world we could have. Everyone of course wants that bit of escapism and look externally to get a boost in the right direction. I often speak to clients of needing to be able to produce emotions from within and thus being in control of your emotional responses and not needing external factors –  but there is no harm is allowing an outside influence to help us along the way on occasion.

Perfume  for me though is not about a different life that is out of reach. I, like many women, will be spraying my favourite scent whilst juggling the whole ‘ getting out the door ‘ routine in the morning. For me this involves negotiating  with a 2 year old and a 17 year old. Both on their own time zone, and both focused on what they need to do before we leave – the fact that my schedule is fitting around them is often of course not even in their zone.

But when I choose my scent of choice for me it brings back memories – of lives gone by and people that were in them. It’s like Silvrikrin hairspray – just a whiff of this  and I am back in my nanna’s dining room whilst Liz the hairdresser does her weekly wash and set- a blue rinse all finished off with waves of Silvrikrin hairspray – I can see every ornament  and even the mats on the dining room table – just like it was yesterday.

Again like many women, when it comes to perfume I have had my select few – the specially chosen perfume which has stayed with me for significant times. .. and like old friends or flirtatious courting, they all have their own memories.

I am a Chanel girl myself- coco chanel to be exact – my go to scent which reminds me that I am a women , a grown up. I swapped to this soon after I left home and started out on my own life adventure. I see my first house that we rented and my dresser on which my first bottle sat. I found it through my mum who was a No.5 lady and so together it holds many emotions of the past. It’s like a comfort blanket which I know will always be there for me. I like to think I stay true but then there are the scents which try to lure me away – at the moment I am flirting outrageously with Black Opium..adding that little spice of life . Chanel of course will always be there for me patiently waiting.

Finally there are those scents of days gone by .. Charlie was my teenage choice and the smell takes me right back to my bedroom at home, which I vacated  nearly 30 years ago. I persuaded my parents to let me decorate in black and red – the must have colours of the 80’s – I can see Morten Harket from Aha , Prince and John Taylor all staring at me from the walls , alongside the old cassette player onto which I would record the weekly chart show. .. Then there’s Tommy Girl – my move into a cool more grown up world – my first power suits complete with shoulder pads.

So you see I also enjoy some escapism but that moment when I spray my perfume, I take a breath to remember life and where I was and where I am now – and I smile over the years gone by .. Natalie Portman can keep her rope ladder – if he can’t be bothered to land the helicopter I am not climbing up and the bad boy from Diesel – if your going to treat me rotten  then you can just jog on yourself.  I am happy to stop for just a second and recall the memories of days gone by .. before I am jolted back to reality by a toddler who’s world is ending because his shoe is ‘ wrong ‘ and a teenager who has lost a vital item and will now spend 10 minutes searching for it whilst I stress about being late for wherever I am meant to be:)

So next time you indulge in your favourite scent focus on what you had and what you have now .. fantasy is wonderful but your memories and your reality can be just as amazing.